Paul Butzi |||

US-5744 (Tiger Mountain State Forest) Activation

This morning I was hopeful that I’d be able to slope off and do a four park POTA activation at a cluster of four parks not far from my home: Tiger Mountain State Forest, Flaming Geyser State Park, Nolte State Park, and Kanaskat Palmer State Park.

I was concerned, however, about propagation conditions, because the recent massive solar storm totally wiped out propagation here in the PNW. Saturday, I could hear NO stations on any band - total blackout. Sunday, I could hear the occasional station, but signals were very very weak. Monday, conditions were improved, and I managed to eke out a few contacts from home, but propagation was wildly variable - almost fine one moment, near blackout the next.

So on Tuesday, I headed to the shack to check conditions before heading out to play POTA, and was dismayed to encounter a complete blackout. This put my plans on hold, until just after noon, conditions started to improve. Not a lot, mind you, but enough that I started to be confident that I’d be able to hear at least a few stations when I set up in a park. Would I get 10 QSOs for a valid activation? Maybe not, and certainly not at 4 parks in succession. But, I figured, a day playing radio and exploring new parks didn’t sound like a bad plan, so I threw the G90, battery, and antenna into the car and headed out. I considered putting the IC-7300 in the car so that I’d have 100W at my disposal but in the end went with the G90 to get some operating time on a nearly new to me radio.

G90 in car

First stop was Tiger Mountain State Forest. I’d gone to the spot identified by lat/long in the park description on the POTA website, but that’s a perfectly awful spot, with a high tension powerline corridor running directly over the parking area, and a s9 noise level as a result. When I discovered that last week when I tried to activate there, I just packed it all back up and headed to the next park on my list. Moral of that story: always have a plan B.

Anyway, Tiger Mountain State Forest is quite large, and I’d identified another parking area that I thought would be better, and so I headed to that spot. I was rewarded with a noise level much more favorable - s0-s1, except when vehicles (especially Teslas, which are incredible RFI generators) would drive behind my parked car.

Thus set up with an operating position in the back seat of the car (see photo) I spotted myself and started calling CQ. After just a couple of minutes I connected with W4JNR, very weak signal, park to park. Jeff was activating US-0645, Glen Canyon NRA. I gave him an RST of 54, which was generous, and he gave me a 42. At that point, I was figuring every QSO was going to amount to digging stations out of the noise, and considered just pulling the plug and taking a walk to enjoy the weather.

But when I was born I apparently got a triple ration of stubborn, and I (bravely) carried on calling CQ. It took another 9 minutes of calling to get hunter #2, and another 7 before caller #3. In the past I’ve managed to get a valid activation in under half an hour every time, and I was pretty clearly not going to hit that mark and be able to move on to the next park on my list. In the end it took me an hour to get 10 QSOs and a valid activation.

Immediately I had that 10th QSO in the log I reasoned that I was getting some hunters who were booming in, S9, particularly from OR, and those stations were giving me 57-59 reports, so there was decent propagation, and part of the problem was that all the hunters figured conditions were lousy and weren’t hunting today.

Well, I had a radio, I was in a park, and I could be a both an activator and a hunter. I hit the POTA spots page, looking for someone activating a park on the Oregon coast - that was the region I’d gotten good prop to/from earlier. Aha! K1ZMA was activating a 2fer, US-2818 Cape Blanco State Park and US-10007 Oregon Coast State Trail. I’ve spent time at Cape Blanco, so I eagerly tuned to his frequency and bingo, he was easily 59. That put two more QSOs in my bag.

I happily hunted parks in Colorado and California before I called it quits, having spent another 50 minutes beyond what it took to get those first 10 QSOs. QSO Map Note that that QSO that’s way over in Georgia is actually a park to park contact from Glen Canyon, in Utah (or maybe Arizona).

Gear used

  • Bioenno 30AH LiFePO4 battery
  • Xiegu G90 transceiver with male PL259 to female BNC adapter
  • Xiegu cooling stand for G90
  • Xiegu hand microphone
  • Chameleon 17’ whip with quick release on Tram 3 magnet magmount with feedline cut short and female BNC connector
  • 2m RG316 feedline with BNC connectors both ends
  • Apple Macbook Pro for logging
  • Iphone for internet connectivity

Notes/Observations

  1. The Xiegu G90 is, I think, pretty susceptible to RFI. Having a Tesla or a diesel truck drive past was just a noisy disaster. I think the Icom IC-7300 is far better in this regard, but of course it costs quite a bit more, weighs a lot more, and is bigger. I wouldn’t want to use the G90 in an RF dense environment.
  2. The antenna tuner in the G90 could get a match for the 17’ whip on 20m, 17m with ease. 15m was a struggle and the match was not great. 12m and 10m were no go. So maybe the range of the tuner is not as broad as I thought.
  3. The RF gain control on the G90 is non-intuitive and I suspect coming to grips with it is a key to getting best performance from this radio.
  4. Personal preference but I really, really do not like working with a hand mic and I’m glad that the headset and adapter have arrived.
  5. The cooling stand keeps it cool. It also keeps it noisy.
Up next Xiegu G90 First Thoughts I’ve been wanting to do more POTA park activations but the overhead of pulling either the IC-7300 or the KX3 out of the station setup, and then
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